As it goes with many centuries-old vacation destinations, mineral springs were the main draw for visitors to Saratoga Springs; starting in the late 18th century, people from the Northeast flocked to this town to soak up the health benefits of the “healing waters.” By the mid-19th century, Saratoga was booming as a resort town with luxury hotels (including the Grand Union Hotel, which was the world’s largest hotel at the time) and horse racing.
Some hundred years later, there was a crackdown on gambling, and tourism waned. But in the last 50 years, Saratoga has reclaimed its identity as a hotspot for vacationing city folk who are drawn in by its racetrack, access to nature, and quaint downtown. Here’s what you should know about visiting Saratoga Springs, New York, according to a local.
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Best Things to Do in Saratoga Springs
Saratoga Springs is centered around Broadway, a quintessential main street lined with historic buildings, hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, and art galleries. But a number of Saratoga’s main attractions are located within Saratoga Spa State Park, a 2,400-acre National Historic Landmark just outside of downtown Saratoga. Here you’ll find the Roosevelt Baths & Spa, where you can soak in Saratoga’s mineral waters; the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which hosts summer concerts and ballets; the Saratoga Automobile Museum; and miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails. There’s no shortage of activities at this park, no matter your interest and no matter the season.
Elsewhere in Saratoga, there are more museums to be found, including the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, the Tang Teaching Museum & Art Gallery at Skidmore College, the Saratoga Springs History Museum, and the X-Files Preservation Collection. (Yes, there really is a museum dedicated to the iconic ’90s TV show.)
About 15 miles outside of downtown Saratoga is the Saratoga National Historical Park, the site of the historic Battles of Saratoga, a turning point for Americans during the Revolutionary War. Not only is this a must-see for history lovers, but it’s also a beautiful park for hiking.
And finally, there’s the historic Saratoga Race Course, which opened in 1863 and is the oldest sports venue in the country. The eight-week track season runs from mid-July through early September and draws thousands of fans to its races. It also hosts walking tours of the 350-acre grounds on race days.
Saratoga Springs Hotels
Saratoga’s hotel scene may have waxed and waned over the years, but historic properties abound today. The luxe Adelphi Hotel is undoubtedly the town’s grande dame, with a prime location on Broadway and four restaurants. In Saratoga Spa State Park, the Gideon Putnam upholds Saratoga’s resort tradition — and is the site of the Roosevelt Baths & Spa.
Then there’s a seemingly endless number of inns and bed-and-breakfasts. The Batcheller Mansion Inn is, as its name suggests, housed in a Victorian-era mansion, while the Inn at Saratoga is the longest continuously operating lodging in town; it opened its doors in 1843. For an upscale boutique stay, there’s the Saratoga Arms, a family-run property in downtown Saratoga built in 1870. Other popular B&Bs include Springwater Bed & Breakfast, Anne’s Washington Inn, Saratoga Farmstead, Circular Manor, the Brunswick at Saratoga, and Union Gables Inn.
For something more modern, try Saratoga’s two motels: the Bluebird Spa City Motor Lodge on Broadway and the Brentwood Hotel, just five minutes outside of town. And if you’re a points chaser, don’t worry — Saratoga has plenty of chain hotels, so it’s easy to earn and redeem points here, too.
Where to Eat and Drink in Saratoga Springs
There’s no doubt that the town of just 30,000 people is something of a foodie destination, with dozens of cuisines served at eateries around town. Plus, this is a college town, after all, so there’s no shortage of bars.
Starting with breakfast and brunch, some must-visit spots include Mrs. London’s and Sweet Mimi’s, both of which are cafés offering tasty pastries and savory dishes, and The Merc for bottomless mimosas. For lunch, book a table at Spanish tapas restaurant Boca Bistro, opt for all-you-can-eat sushi at Wasabi, or pop into Fat Paulie’s deli for a sandwich. Or if you’ve had a late brunch and want to jump to happy hour drinks and bites, try Mexican restaurant Cantina’s, which has drink and snack deals at the bar from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.
For casual dinners, we’d recommend Hattie’s, a southern spot, and Wheatfields, an Italian restaurant. If you’re looking for an upscale dinner, try 15 Church, Seneca, or steakhouse Salt & Char at the Adelphi. And for the best views, head just outside of town to 550 Waterfront by Druthers, located on Saratoga Lake.
To finish your night with drinks, we recommend cocktails at Hamlet & Ghost, beers at Druthers Brewing Company or Whitman Brewing Company, and martinis and jazz music at 9 Maple Ave.
Best Time to Visit Saratoga Springs
While Saratoga is a year-round destination, each season has its pros and cons. Summer is by far the most popular time to visit — specifically during track season, which runs from July through early September. As such, this is the busiest and most expensive time to visit Saratoga.
Autumn might edge out the other seasons, as it has the benefits of cooler weather, beautiful fall foliage, and fewer crowds, though weekends can still be somewhat busy. Fall is also the best time to go hiking on the many trails in and around Saratoga.
Winter quiets down a bit, but Saratoga offers wintry activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and the city decks the halls each year for the holidays.
Saratoga takes some time to thaw out after winter, leaving hiking trails a bit icy and muddy in spring, but this is one of the cheaper times to come to town, and early spring visitors will still be able to enjoy the city’s museums, shopping, and dining.
Saratoga Springs is located about 200 miles north of New York City and 200 miles northwest of Boston. It’s located off I-87, also known as the Adirondack Northway. It takes about three hours to drive from New York City or Boston to Saratoga.
Saratoga’s nearest major city is Albany, where you’ll also find the nearest airport: Albany International Airport (ALB). From there, it’s about a 35-minute drive to Saratoga. You can either rent a car or take a taxi or rideshare from the airport to Saratoga Springs. There are no other major airports nearby; New York City airports (JFK, LGA, and EWR) are between 2.5 and three hours away by car, while Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) is three hours away.
Saratoga Springs also has an Amtrak station just a five-minute drive from downtown, with trains traveling to and from New York City twice a day.
Overall, downtown Saratoga is very walkable, but many attractions require a short drive — it’s best to rent a car, as taxis and rideshares can be somewhat limited, depending on the season. There is a bus system in town that can help you get around, too.
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